The Youth Minister VS. The School Fundraiser
In this corner, weighing in at 225 lbs (due to Wednesday night $5 pizzas) wearing the gray cargo shorts and 90’s soul patch is your challenger, Johnny “Sweet Bro” Youth Minister. In this corner is the undisputed heavyweight champion, the fall/spring/athletic/band/drill team school FUNDRAISER!!!
Whether it’s a phone call asking if we’d like a $25 coupon book worth $9,000 in savings, the text notifying us of the availability of toffee-infused milk chocolate bars in a plain white wrapper, or the timid knock on our front door revealing a sweaty trumpet player hocking very large orbital suckers in an inappropriately large number of scandalous flavors, I think we’ve all felt the struggle. But my absolute favorite (and dreaded) moment is the semester beginning when you hear the stampede of student-salespeople bum-rushing you in the youth room with sign-up sheets and glossy catalogs like crazed fans striving to get David Lee Roth’s autograph before he slips into the limo.
But they don’t just want your name and address, they want your $20. And it’s a pivotal moment for many of us in youth ministry when we must choose to show our support for the young people we lead and love, or grow closer to a fringe kid who mustered the courage to ask us for support. Unfortunately, we can also go broke in the process.
Maybe you’ve already had to say “no” and then immediately felt their young eyes dim as they now picture you as a cross between Scrooge McDuck and the Grinch. There’s hope yet. You have options, and you are not alone.
So here are some responses to consider when Jennifer needs you to help pay for her trip to Orlando:
“Yes! Sign me up. Here’s my credit card and a blank check!”
Do this when you are independently wealthy and you already asked your wife. Just keep on giving and acquiring limitless bags of chocolate-covered carbs until they stop asking. Which will be never.
“Yes! Sign me up. I have $50 left to spend for fundraisers.”
Set a limit from your personal finances each semester that you can draw from when asked by students to support them. Make it clear that once the funds are gone, you’ll no longer be able to purchase items. This can also work by designating a small line item in your youth fund for these items and then serving whatever food items you bought on Wednesday nights to students. This way students feel supported and everything stays above board.
“No, I’m sorry but I only commit to one purchase each semester and I’ve already bought from another student.”
This approach will set a standard where students will, first of all, realize you are constantly being hit up for support and that you are unmistakably poor. You are a youth minister after all. It will put it back on them to get to you early.
“No, I’m sorry but since I can’t buy from everybody, I choose not to buy from anybody.”
Ok, this is a gutsy move so be careful. It’s very practical and leans into a high standard of consistency and justice. But this can also make you look like a cheapo. Best to follow this answer up with a misdirecting side hug and then ask if they wanna go play Gaga-ball.
John Barnard is a veteran youth pastor of 20+ years. He heads up a mentor development outreach ministry called Middleman Skateboard Ministries (middlemanskateboards.com) and lives in TX with his beautiful wife Mandi, loud kids Dylin, Levi and Evie, and fat bulldog Oscar. He likes to turn a wrench while listening to Junior Brown and has never turned down a taco.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.